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  • Writer's pictureScott Glazier

Japan Reconsiders Lifting Tattoo Ban for Armed Forces


Good Morning Speakeasy Readers!


Another cloudy weekend, but the weather is still warming up. Summer is almost here! There’s plenty to do so I hope everyone enjoys the weekend.


Today I will be sharing some current news going on in the tattoo world. Currently Japan is considering lifting a ban on tattoos for its defense forces in order to increase recruitment and encourage young citizens to join the armed forces.

For many years Japan has looked down on tattoos, as they are strongly associated with mafia-like gangs known as the yakuza who often get inked with elaborate tattoos that cover large parts of their bodies.

Recently though, several politicians urge the government to relax the rules against body art and not discriminate against people who want to join Japan’s armed forces for having “fashionable tattoos” not associated with yakuza gangs. Officials are now saying that the young population of Japan now sport tattoos for sartorial reasons and it’s not to identify with yakuza."Rejecting applicants just because they have tattoos poses a problem in terms of enhancing the human resources base," Masahisa Sato, an MP from the governing Liberal Democratic Party, recently said.“Various kinds, including fashion tattoos like a small flower or one’s own name” should not be mistaken for the sort of full-body tattoos that yakuza gangs tended to favor, Sato added.

The head of the defense ministry's personnel bureau, Kazuhito Machida, has said that the ban must be reconsidered given Japan's declining birth rate. The country of 125 million had fewer than 800,000 births in 2022. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said it is "now or never" for Japan to address its shrinking and aging population. With the population declining the Japanese Self-Defence Forces missed its recruitment target last April and ended up being 10% short of its troop capacity.

While lifting this ban won’t completely fix Japan’s issue of low recruitment as tattoos are still pretty rare to have in Japan, lifting it will open opportunities for those who were brave enough to still get a tattoo for personal reasons rather than yakuza affiliation. There are many other jobs and services in Japan that will deny employment or service to people with tattoos and lifting this ban could be the beginning of opening more opportunities for people with tattoos and of lifting the taboo that many of the older generations feel against tattoos.


Personally I look forward to seeing the tattoo world grow in Japan. Once the stigma against tattoos lightens up, I feel we will see many amazing new tattoo artists emerge.


Until next time my fellow apes,


Peter Hernanez

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